This nonprofit offers social and financial support to Macon college students
When Mayah Williams, a 2013 graduate of Macon’s Howard High School, attended Spelman College in Atlanta, she felt there was a need for more support, networking and connections between college students.
So Williams founded MaconIt. The organization, now a Georgia nonprofit organization, grew from a social networking group that included students attending Spelman, Morehouse College and Clark Atlanta University.
“We knew that we were all going through the same types of things, facing the same obstacles, celebrating some of the same successes,” Williams said. “We just wanted to make a group where we could all talk about those things, talk about the things that go on in college, provide support for each other.”
Williams, who graduated from Spelman in 2017 and earned her master’s degree in community psychology and program development from the University of New Haven, wanted to bring part of that support system to Macon.
The organization now helps local students prepare, attend and get through college. For instance, members of the group go to a few Macon-Bibb County’s public high schools every winter break to share their college experiences.
“We allow students to come up and ask us any questions they have about the SAT requirements and about college life,” Williams said.
Last year, the organization held an open forum at Howard High School where members talked about college preparation, how to fill out the FAFSA, the complicated form used to apply for federal financial aid, and how to decide on a college, among other topics.
Angela Madray, the senior counselor at Howard High until this year, worked with MaconIt to arrange some of the visits to the school.
“A couple of times they went into classrooms with seniors and had discussions with the seniors about college life,” Madray said. “Kind of gave them a different perspective from somebody who was there. . . . It wasn’t your parents or your counselor saying ‘This is what college is going to be like.’”
Williams said what makes MaconIt distinct from other organizations is the support given to students as they are in college, rather than just helping them go to college.
“We are helping the students to not only get to college, but succeed and be able to transition through the whole two or four years ... so that they can be prepared to take on whatever career they want to once they finish and be able to come back and serve the community,” she said.
Stefan Harden, a rising junior at Morehouse College majoring in cinema, television, and emerging media studies, is part of MaconIt’s event and planning committee. He also serves as a mentor to other students.
“The organization has helped me serve my community. It has also helped me realize the importance of having people who are from the same environment as you come back and give guidance and support,” Harden said in an email to The Telegraph.
Williams wants to add more MaconIt programs. The group is working to get 501(c)(3) status, which would mean it’s approved by the Internal Revenue Service as a tax-exempt, charitable organization.
Currently, donations have come through community members, small businesses and family members from the people in the organization.
Once the organization gets more funding, Williams plans to implement programs such as a mentorship program. When students from Macon go to college, they will be matched with a mentor from Macon who attends that same college.
Other programs would provide scholarships, book stipends and a College 101 class in high schools.
For now, the organization is planning it’s 5th annual award ceremony on July 13 at 5:30 p.m. at Lundy Chapel’s Educational Center to celebrate students’ accomplishments.
College students will be honored in five categories: artistry, community service, athlete, entrepreneur and MaconIt Award. A rising star award will be given to a high school student excelling in academics and service.
Eric Hubbard, a graduate of Howard High School, was a recipient of MaconIt’s artistry award in 2018. He now attends Bethune Cookman University in Daytona Beach, Florida as a music recording major.
Hubbard said MaconIt has been “an outlet to highlight the good things going on.”
Elijah Rutland is another college student who received an award at the organization’s ceremony last year. He graduated from Central High School and attends Florida A&M University in Tallahassee, Florida, as a graphic design major.
He won the entrepreneur of the year award for his art business, Fix My Sole, where he customizes tennis shoes and does digital artwork.
MaconIt has given “me a support system of other young black college students and graduates where I can go to for help, advice, tips about how to maximize my college experience,” Rutland said.
For more information about the program, visit maconit.org.